Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Djibouti vs Kenya 2020 is oddly reminiscent of Somalia vs Ethiopia 1984

By Mohamed Osman

The recent battle between fellow Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) members Djibouti and Kenya, which saw them vie with one another for a temporary seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), is NOT the first time fellow IGAD members have faced off in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). UNSC, of course being the most powerful organ of the UN with such powers as imposing sanctions and intervening militarily is a highly coveted position for any nation. Several conspiracy theories have been thrown abound as to the reason Djibouti failed to honor the African Union (AU) endorsement of Kenya. One theory is that China pushed Djibouti to take its case to the General Assembly. Whereas, another is that Somalia and Ethiopia colluded to block Kenya from winning the much-coveted seat at the UNSC. Whatever the case, and as expected so as not to undermine the AU, Kenya secured the UNSC seat.

Amb Abdullahi Osman at the UN

Allow me then to take you back to 1984. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) had endorsed Ethiopia as its candidate for the UNSC seat. Somalia was not happy with the endorsement of its bitter rival and sought to block Ethiopia from winning the seat. Ambassador Osman was thus tasked with the almost impossible mission of blocking Ethiopia. Up until that point, both Ethiopia and Somalia had only held the said seat once prior to 1984. Albeit Ambassador Osman being new to the Somali Mission to the UN in New York, he was selected as one of the Vice Presidents (VP) for the General Assembly only a couple of years later won in 1986. It became clear that Ambassador Osman’s reputation had preceded him from Geneva as he toiled towards attaining even newer heights. Below is an excerpt from Mr. Osman Hassan’s, Adieu Ambassador Abdullahi Osman, which delves into Ambassador Osman’s remarkable qualities and outstanding achievements in Geneva:

“Soon after my arrival in Geneva in 1977, Abdullahi was already among the heavyweights among the third world diplomats in Geneva. Quickly displaying his outstanding qualities as a speaker and negotiator, he was soon chosen as the Spokesman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) member countries, the precursor of the current African Union (AU). He was also designated as the spokesman for members of the League of Arab States (LAS).

I have seen him in action as Chairman, or speaking for his country, or on behalf of the OAU or the LAS member countries. Some delegates when they speak bore conferences and send them to sleep. Not with Ambassador Abdullahi. All eyes would be fixated on him when he spoke with his flawless English and admirable faultless delivery. Such was his high standing in the corridors of the UN in Geneva that other ambassadors would sometimes queue to handshake him, or to draw his attention, or seek his consultation on specific agenda items at meetings or conferences of the day. Starting a Mission from scratch, with a skeleton staff and a meagre budget, he was able to turn it into one of the leading Missions among developing countries.

One of Ambassador Abdullahi’s greatest contributions was after the 1977 war with Ethiopia when over a million ethnic Somalis fleeing the Somali region of Ethiopia in fear of retribution from the Mengistu Haile Mariam sought refuge in Somalia. Ambassador Abdullahi had two pressing tasks to undertake: on the one hand, to draw the attention of the international community to the dire humanitarian needs of the refugees; and at the same time to expose Ethiopia for pushing out these refugees and for continuing to commit crimes against humanity in the Somali regions of Ethiopia. He was successful on both fronts. Ethiopia under Mengistu had little friends in the West in those days. He was the bane of Ethiopia and they could find no one to match him.

In the end, he was transferred to the Somali Mission to the UN in New York in 1984. He was equally effective there as he was in Geneva if not more with the experience, he had gained over two decades. It was a time to be proud of Somalia and to be a Somali in which Ambassador Abdullahi played no small part. Only those who knew it at close hand can appreciate it in the midst of what we have gone through- falling from our pedestal to a failed state.”

Needless to say, Somalia successfully blocked OAU endorsed Ethiopia after
3 DAYS AND 11 ROUNDS OF VOTING! Somalia was gaining momentum after almost each round and potentially would have secured the victory were it not for the intervention and mediation of the Secretary General of the OAU. In essence, it ended in a stalemate with each nation capturing 75 votes each in the tenth round. In the eleventh round, Madagascar secured the UNSC seat after both Ethiopia and Somalia agreed to withdraw their candidature and endorse Madagascar. Ambassador Osman and his remarkable team ran an impressive and effective campaign as Ethiopia fell well short of securing the UNSC seat. Moreover, Mr. Ali Madar, Somali Deputy Ambassador, was elected as Chairman of the 3rd Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee) by acclimation on its first meeting.

The 1984 Somali Campaign launched against its bitter rival was indeed a huge success due in large part to the one two punch delivered by Ambassador Osman and Deputy Ambassador Madar, whom together carried a lot of weight and influence. Ironically a few years later, after the total collapse of the Somali Government, Ambassador Osman would move on to become the Assistant Secretary General of the OAU thereby representing the East Africa Region. He was tasked with heading the administration of the OAU, the same Organization he was tasked to defy by not honoring its endorsement. Yet what was even more ironic was the fact that he defeated the Ethiopian incumbent in the process without the backing of a functioning Somali Government! Thus, becoming the first and only Somali to hold the said Post. He would yet later lay the foundation of the AU Peace and Security Council by setting up its legal instruments and mechanisms. He was a great man, a legend, a patriot, and above all a great human being!

Happy Father’s Day!
Rest in Peace Dad!

Mohamed Osman, MBA
Email: [email protected]
Mohamed is a US Government sub-contractor and resides in McLean, Virginia

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